AU’s first female leader takes office

On 15 October, following a ceremony at the headquarters of the African Un­ion (AU) in Addis Ababa, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s former home affairs minister, took up her post as chairperson of the AU Commission. She is the first female leader of the continental body, which was originally founded as the Organisation of African Unity in 1963.

Dlamini-Zuma was elected to the position in July following a bruising two-round con­test against the outgoing chairman, Jean Ping of Gabon. The election divided the continent largely along language lines: the francoph­one states plus Nigeria and Ethiopia support­ed Ping’s candidacy, while the Anglophones, led by members of the Southern African Development Community, backed Dlamini- Zuma. There was widespread discontent with South Africa for breaking the unwritten convention that the five largest contributors to the AU budget (Nigeria, Egypt, Libya, Algeria and South Africa) should not contest the Commission’s highest office.

After healing the rifts caused during the election process, Dlamini-Zuma will have to turn her attention to key security issues, including Mali, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the simmering ten­sions between Sudan and South Sudan.


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